Everton V Sunderland at Goodison Park : Match Preview

24 February 2017
Everton V Sunderland - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Everton boss Ronald Koeman prepared for 'difficult' clash with Sunderland

Ronald Koeman hopes Everton can pick up where they left off when they face Premier League basement dwellers Sunderland on Saturday.

The Toffees go into the clash unbeaten in eight league games dating back to their derby loss against Liverpool on December 19.

They have won five of those matches and scored 19 goals, climbing to seventh in the table and within nine points of the Champions League places.

Elimination from the FA Cup left them with a free weekend, with Koeman taking the opportunity to whisk his players off for a training camp in Dubai.

Now it is back to the serious business and a match that he knows could trip Everton up if they are not fully focused.

"It's always difficult," said the Dutchman. "They fight against relegation. They also had a break. In the last couple of days I watched the Sunderland-Southampton game. The final score was 4-0 but the first 45 minutes Sunderland was the better team.

"We need to prepare ourselves. If you're not 100 per cent, if you take it too easy, if you are sloppy they will punish you for that. We are full of confidence but we have to show that in a good level on the pitch.

"The team and the people are happy. But in a good run you have to be prepared for what can happen. We know we are strong but it's football and we need to keep the momentum and that starts this weekend."

The match will mean a first return to Goodison Park for Darron Gibson and Bryan Oviedo, who both signed for Sunderland in January, as well as summer departure Steven Pienaar.

Koeman said: "It's always special for the players. They (Gibson and Oviedo) went to Sunderland to get more game time, that was a good choice by both players.

"They will get a respectful welcome. If they play they will do everything to win the game for Sunderland. We are friends after the game and before the game but during the 95 minutes everyone is involved in his own team."

Everton have top scorer Romelu Lukaku available after he missed the trip to Dubai to travel to Belgium for treatment on a calf problem.

James McCarthy and Kevin Mirallas are also fit after minor injuries kept them out of the goalless draw with Middlesbrough two weeks ago.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Muhamed Besic are close to returning to full training while Yannick Bolasie will next month undergo his second knee operation.

This weekend is set to be a special occasion, meanwhile, for left-back Leighton Baines, who should make his 300th Premier League appearance for Everton.

Sunderland boss David Moyes believes Everton counterpart Koeman still has some way to go if he is to match his own achievements during his 11-year reign at Goodison Park.

Moyes returns to his former club on Saturday for only the second time since departing for Manchester United in 2013, having capped his reign by leading the them into the Champions League in 2005.

Moyes said: "I think he (Koeman) is doing a good job. They (Everton) want to compete with the top clubs but I still think there's a bit to do to break into it.

"We were fortunate in that we did break into it when we got into the Champions League, so maybe looking back it just shows you what level of achievement that actually was."

Moyes, whose only previous return to Goodison was in April 2014 when a 2-0 defeat hastened his departure from Old Trafford, now leads his Sunderland side back to Merseyside in a desperate search for points.

Moyes added: "I will go back with incredible memories of the place.

"We got the support from the board to rebuild the club and we went on to qualify for the Champions League which should never be forgotten, and on a limited budget as well.

"I still speak to people at the club and it will be good to see a lot of them again. I've got great memories of some great days and nights at Goodison but I want to go back and win for Sunderland."

Moyes has been boosted by the likely return of goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. The home-grown star had earned rave reviews before being sidelined by a knee injury on Boxing Day, and his comeback could be timely with current number one Vito Mannone struggling to prop up his side's shaky defence.

Moyes added: "I've got a choice to make between the goalkeepers. Jordan is back in training and we just have to see if we think he's ready. He's trained and looked fine but obviously he's had the best part of eight weeks out."

Pienaar, is set to miss out on a Goodison return after picking up a minor calf injury, while defender Jan Kirchhoff is still unavailable and Papy Djilobodji serves the last of his four-game ban.